The Tofino Bus depot in Port Alberni is closing, but there will still be Island-wide bus service, says the company’s general manager.
“Bus service will continue, just the actual depot itself will be closing,” says Travis Wilson of Wilson Transportation. Tofino Bus was sold to Wilson’s Group in 2018.
A sign went up last week in the window at the bus depot that the depot will close as of Nov. 30. People who use the bus are concerned it means the bus will no longer service Port Alberni. Wilson said there will be two different spots in Port Alberni where people will be able to pick up the inter-city bus—he will be finalizing those locations this week.
Greyhound in the United States is increasingly moving toward curbside service with no depots, Wilson explained; the company is looking at similar service in its remaining British Columbia markets. So are companies like Wilson Transportation, which serves smaller markets.
“About 85 percent of people buy online now,” Wilson explained, adding that it doesn’t make sense for the company to keep a depot in those smaller markets—like Port Alberni. “Costs to keep a depot are rising.”
Wilson is slowly remodelling its inter-city busing structure to curbside service. Tofino’s bus depot will remain the same, as it is a small place where people wait for the bus, Wilson said. Tofino doesn’t supply a depot agent anymore; the bus driver sells tickets in this case.
Parksville’s bus depot closed a little while ago and patrons now pick up the bus in front of a local community centre.
Courtenay’s bus depot is already closed; patrons are picked up at a BC Transit bus stop now at the corner of Kilpatrick and 27th Street.
Wilson said he hopes to find a community centre or business in Port Alberni where people who are paying cash or with a credit card can still buy tickets in person. People will still be able to buy tickets from the bus driver.
“Drivers are equipped to sell tickets in every market,” he added.
Whether Tofino Bus continues with shipping is to be determined, Wilson said. “The freight market on inter-city bus service isn’t what it used to be.”
They have offered Vancouver Island-only service since September 2018, after Greyhound Package Express was discontinued.
“Freight is being reviewed to determine viability with what the service has now become.”